Jun 23, 2022 News
– says GECOM still relevant body for review
Kaieteur News – The Opposition Coalition has reiterated its firm position that any review into the contentious 2020 General Elections should be conducted by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM.
However, in light of the recently announced presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the contentious 2020 election, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) is demanding that the government, Opposition Coalition and CoI Commissioners collectively determine the Terms of Reference (ToR) to guide the process and ensure some sense of fairness regarding the review.
The PNCR, during a press conference yesterday said that neither the party, nor its Coalition partners was consulted regarding the President’s decision to hold the CoI or to identify those serving on the Commission, despite the impact the review could have on all those concerned. The party sees the announcement by President Irfaan Ali to host the COI as a distraction interfering with the judicial process relating to the election petition which was filed by the Opposition post 2020 polls.
PNCR’s executive member, Rear Admiral Gary Best said that the party recognises the CoI as interference in the judicial process of the election petition and a distraction to the issues in the public sphere. “The fact that there is a commission of inquiry which is under the hands of the president and at the same time, the president’s party is to be investigated in a judicial process and the process of the CoI, to us that speaks to the fact that only one side will be preparing the evidentiary processes for the CoI. So, we therefore suggest strongly to the president and to the commissioners that in the interest of fairness and justice, the government and the Opposition should determine, along with the commissioners what are these TORs…”
Best pointed out that it is important to recognize that GECOM is the body responsible for conducting elections in Guyana. The party is interested therefore in the review by GECOM of its internal affairs and the court taking its natural course regarding the election petition. He added that, “The setting up of a COI is a clear attempt to hoodwink the Guyanese public by introducing a process which is of less judicial value than the very election petitions. It is important to note also, that a COI is not a court of law. Our own Commission of inquiry Act allows for hearsay evidence, it allows for accusations of misconduct being made without any built-in rules of natural justice or procedural fairness to safeguard the rights and interests of people who might be so affected.”
In the case of the election petition, Best said, it is a legal process in which evidence is considered and the decisions of the Court are binding in law and on the parties to it. “Obviously, the PPP’s intention is to smear the character and reputation of persons who would be averse to them in the election petitions. Therefore, a COI cannot provide any judicial finality to the Guyanese citizens on electoral malpractices during the 2020 General and Regional Elections. The Petitions can and will (do that),” the PNCR member stated. The Rear Admiral reminded that the People’s Progressive Party is a party to the election petition and the COI and that the President cannot be a judge and jury in his own cause. As such, the party reiterated that the constitutional GECOM body should conduct its own independent review.
Outside of this, Best said that the Coalition has nothing to fear from the CoI. He said that the CoI is supposed be looking into the general elections process and he believes persons from all political parties could be called to offer evidence. But if it should be suggested that the COI is to look into the wrongdoings of the Coalition’s action of 2020, then obviously, it becomes a witch hunt. Best said the Coalition is prepared to attend the COI and vindicate itself of the accusations against it while providing evidence on wrongdoings that it is aware of.
The Alliance For Change (AFC) in a public missive also restated its position that GECOM should be conducting its own internal review as the apex electoral institution concerning the 2020 Elections. The party said, instead it notes President Irfaan Ali artfully filling the breach by naming members of a COI into election events. “The AFC would like to reiterate that the call for an internal institutional review was directed to identify flaws and weaknesses in the system, operations, and human resources of GECOM. Every institution of such high constitutional rank and to which huge sums of public monies are allocated must have, at minimum, an attempt at this self-introspection.”To shy away from this self-examination is most irresponsible, and an unnecessary damage to the credibility of an almost shattered GECOM.
The AFC believes that the presidential COI also started off on the wrong footing since there was no attempt at consulting the Opposition on the matter, including the constitution of its members, the terms of reference, and the timeline in conducting its work. “This consultative, inclusive approach would certainly have engendered a modicum of acceptability and legitimacy of whatever final report it will produce, plus a participation in the Commission’s work by a greater number of Guyanese,” the AFC said.
The party is hoping nonetheless that the Commission comes up with a profound set of recommendations which will ensure that GECOM produces free, fair, and credible elections in future, and that its internal operations, system and human resources be examined thoroughly to identify flaws and weaknesses. The party urged also an early determination of the Election Petitions presently in the Court system. It charged the government to not use the CoI to delay nor displace the Petitions in any way.
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